A swollen arm | What you need to know about arm swelling (2023)

What causes arm swelling?

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8 caused swelling of an arm

What causes arm swelling?

Swelling in one arm is usually caused by a local problem, as systemic disorders associated with swelling affect both arms and likely other parts of the body as well. One-sided arm swelling may be due to a venous or lymphatic drainage problem; a local infection or inflammatory response; or an injury.

vein problems

Venous problems can cause swelling in an arm, such as

  • blood clot:A clot in one of the deep veins (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) of the arm can cause swelling, often accompanied by pain and redness. Blood clots in the arm are rare, but can occur with blood vessel injuries such as a pacemaker or catheter. A blood clot can be complicated by chronic arm swelling.
  • Compression:Compression of the large subclavian vein near the neck can obstruct venous drainage and cause swellingblue arm discolorationTingling in the fingers is often presenthand swellingand/or nerve compression. Anatomical abnormalities, such as an extra rib, are the main cause. Compression of the subclavian vein is the leading cause of deep vein clots in the arm without a catheter or other device.

lymphatic problems

Damage to the arm's lymphatic drainage system or mechanical blockage can lead to accumulation of lymph fluid (lymphedema). Tumors, lymph node surgery, and certain infections can be the causelymphedemaand swelling in one arm. Removal of lymph nodes in the armpit as part of breast cancer treatment is a particularly common cause.upper limb lymphedema.

inflammatory reaction

Inflammatory causes can cause swelling in an arm such as: B. the following.

  • Vaccination:Rarely, arm swelling may occur after multiple doses of a pediatric vaccine (DTaP).
  • insect bites:Most people experience some swelling in oneinsect bite on arm. Allergy sufferers may have more severe swelling that extends up to 10 inches beyond the bite site.

Causes Related to Injuries

The injury can cause swelling of one arm related to the next.

  • Overuse injuries:Biceps tendinitis and acute injuries such as B. a fracture, can lead to swelling in the arm.along with the pain.
  • Chronic Pain Syndrome:An arm injury may be followed by a chronic pain syndrome, characterized by pain, swelling, abnormal sensitivity to temperature, and changes in the appearance of the skin.


Infection of the skin and deeper tissues of the upper arm causes swelling, redness and warmth.

Repetitive Strain Injuries in Oberarms

Repetitive strain injuries in the upper arm are caused by constant repetitive use.


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Main symptoms:Arm pain due to overuse, arm weakness, arm numbness

Symptoms that always occur with a repetitive strain injury to the arm:Upper arm pain from overuse

Symptoms that never occur with a repetitive strain arm injury:Arm injury, severe arm pain


Tiefe Venenthrombose

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein in the body. Most deep vein clots occur in the lower leg or thigh.


Main symptoms:Fever, thigh pain, thigh swelling, calf pain, buttock pain

Urgency:hospital emergency


Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the deep layers of the skin. It can appear anywhere on the body, but is most common on the feet, lower legs, and face.

The condition can develop when Staphylococcus bacteria invade broken skin through a cut, scrape, or an existing skin infection such as impetigo or eczema.

Those most at risk are those with weakened immune systems due to corticosteroids or chemotherapy, or those with poor circulation due to diabetes or vascular disease.

Symptoms come on gradually and include red, sore skin.

If left untreated, the infection can become severe, producing pus and destroying surrounding tissue. In rare cases, the infection can lead to blood poisoning or meningitis.

Symptoms such as severe pain, fever, cold sweats and rapid heartbeat should be evaluated by a doctor immediately.

Diagnosis is by physical examination.

Treatment consists of antibiotics, keeping the wound clean, and sometimes surgery to remove dead tissue. Cellulitis often recurs, so it's important to treat any underlying conditions and strengthen your immune system with rest and good nutrition.


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Main symptoms:Fever, chills, facial flushing, facial swelling, facial pain

Symptoms that always appear with cellulitis:facial flushing, skin flushing

Urgency:family doctor

compartment syndrome

Acute compartment syndrome describes damage to specific muscle groups in the arms or legs after a traumatic injury.

All long muscles are grouped into sections, “compartments,” by white sheets of strong, tough connective tissue called fascia. When something cuts off circulation and blood flow is trapped in the compartment, pressure builds because the fascia cannot stretch. This causes severe damage to the muscles and other tissues within the compartment.

Acute compartment syndrome is caused by a broken bone; a crush injury; burns due to scarring and tight skin; and bandages or dressings applied before an injury stops swelling.

Symptoms can quickly intensify. These include severe pain and tightness in the muscle; tingling or burning; and sometimes numbness and weakness.

Acute compartment syndrome is a medical emergency that can result in the loss of a limb. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made by history and physical examination of the patient.

Treatment includes hospitalization for emergency surgery and, in some cases, skin grafting.


Main symptoms:Arm numbness, hand numbness, foot numbness, leg pain, thigh numbness

Urgency:hospital emergency

biceps bruise

A hematoma is damage to the blood vessels that bring blood back to the heart (capillaries and veins), causing blood to pool. This explains the blue/purple color of most bruises. Biceps bruises are common due to minor injuries.


Main symptoms:constant arm pain, recent bicep injury, bicep pain, swelling of one arm, injured arm

Symptoms that always occur with biceps bruises:recent biceps injury, constant arm pain

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injured triceps

A hematoma is damage to the blood vessels that bring blood back to the heart (capillaries and veins), causing blood to pool. This explains the blue/purple color of most bruises. Triceps bruises are common, usually due to minor injuries.


Main symptoms:constant arm pain, triceps injury, triceps pain, arm swelling, arm bruise

Symptoms that always occur with an injured triceps:Triceps injury, constant arm pain


Benign bone growth (osteochondroma)

An osteochondroma is a benign growth that usually develops in childhood or adolescence. It is a benign tumor that forms on the surface of a bone near the growth plate.

Rarity:Very rare

Main symptoms:Lump in Lower Leg, Lump in Thigh, Numbness in One Thigh, Painful Lump in Thigh, Lump in Hip

Urgency:family doctor

Chronic infection of the arm bone (osteomyelitis)

Osteomyelitis of the arm is a bacterial or fungal infection of the bone, usually caused by staph aureus (40-50% of cases). It is difficult to diagnose because the infection can come from a break in the skin in the area or in another part of the body that is transmitted through the blood.


Main symptoms:spontaneous shoulder pain, mild fever, painful surgical site

Symptoms that always occur with a chronic upper arm bone infection (osteomyelitis):Spontaneous shoulder pain

Urgency:hospital emergency

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Frequently asked questions about arm swelling

Can a swollen arm be a sign of an infection?

Yes, a swollen arm can indicate an infection. Redness, warmth, and discharge may also occur. Some types of infections cause black skin. Animal bites, intravenous drug use, and other types of trauma that break the skin are risk factors for infection. Seek emergency care if you have rapidly spreading skin lesions or signs of systemic illness such as fever [13,14].

Why does one of my arms swell after activity?

Swelling after activity, especially repetitive activities like throwing, can be a sign of venous compression from an abnormality like an extra rib. You may also notice pain and/or a red or blue appearance in your arm. It is important to consult a physician if you notice swelling and other changes in the arm after activity, as a clot may occur as a complication of venous compression [1-3,12,15].

Why do I only have swelling in one arm?

Many systemic diseases can cause swelling in both arms and/or legs, while swelling in just one arm indicates a problem on that side. The swelling could be due to an infection, especially if it's confined to one area. It can also be caused by an acute or chronic injury. Furthermore, a single arm structural abnormality can cause swelling if it restricts the flow of fluid to the veins or lymphatic system [1,4,13,15].

What are the treatments for a chronically swollen arm?

Permanent arm swelling is usually due to a problem with venous or lymphatic drainage. Compression can help reduce swelling in both conditions. Additional treatments such as massage and exercise can also be effective for lymph blockages. Surgery may be required for chronic inflammation, but other treatments are usually tried first [4,12,16].

How can I tell if a bug bite on my arm is infected?

An insect bite is usually followed by a slight itchy, red bump. Some people develop more extensive reactions at the injection site, with a larger area of ​​swelling, redness, and warmth. These large reactions can resemble a skin infection. However, the large inflammatory response to a bite starts quickly and peaks after about half a day. If the bite is complicated by infection, symptoms worsen after a few days [17].

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Arm Swelling

  • Have you just had a serious injury (e.g., fall, collision, accident, or sports injury)?
  • Fever today or in the last week?
  • Do you feel your calf too tight?
  • Have you suffered burns?

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